The Kenai River Brown Bears got the brooms out Saturday night at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex, sweeping the Minnesota Magicians with a 4-2 win.
The Brown Bears are now winners of four of their last five games, and with a 21-17-3 record hold onto fourth place in the North American Hockey League Midwest division standings, a point behind third-place Minnesota Wilderness. Fairbanks continues to lead the division with a 29-12 record after topping Wenatchee (Wash.) 3-1 on Saturday.
Matt Rudin scored twice to go along with goals from Alec Butcher and Jake Davidson. Rudin notched four goals this weekend, and bumped up his season total to 10.
Rudin put the fish on the ice first with 49 seconds left in the first period, taking advantage of the Bears using an extra attacker to net the goal.
After Colin Hernon’s power play goal early in the second period tied the game up at one apiece, Rudin slotted in the go-ahead goal with five minutes left in the period. Barely 90 seconds later, Butcher notched the insurance goal.
“It was a good game to have, it was because of our preparation,” said Brown Bears coach Geoff Beauparlant. “We’ve had a few good weeks of practice, and the guys have worked hard and executed, and done what we’ve asked them to do.”
Kris Oldham got the win in net, his seventh of the season, saving 25 of 27 shots on goal. Minnesota goalie Bryan Nies saves 28 of 32 shots.
On Friday, the Kenai River Brown Bears received four goals from rookies in notching their biggest home victory of the season at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex.
The Bears topped the Minnesota Magicians 5-2 by taking a 3-0 lead and never letting the visiting side get within one goal in the North American Hockey League contest in front of 673.
Of the Bears’ eight home wins as of Friday, six have come by one goal and one was by two goals.
Minnesota got off to a bad start before the puck was even dropped Friday. The Magicians drew a penalty for crossing the red line during warmups.
Rookie Tyler Andrews took advantage just 39 seconds into the game on a pass from Sebastian Fuchs.
Beauparlant said early power plays can go either way. A team can score and set the tone for the night, or the penalty can get killed off and give the opposition momentum.
“It was a big moment for us,” Beauparlant said. “Andrews continues to be good for us on the power play and on the back end.”
With 13:18 left in the first, Kenai River went up 2-0 when rookie Tommy Dierl scored the first goal of his NAHL career.
Dierl had a two-on-one, and elected to keep the puck and score.
“I don’t think anybody in the building thought he was going to pass,” Beauparlant said. “That’s a special moment for a player in this league.”
Said Dierl: “I saw an opening on the right. My teammate was probably mad I didn’t pass it to him.”
Beauparlant said Dierl has been on the verge of a tally for a few weeks.
“I’ve had my chances, but I haven’t been able to bury,” Dierl said. “It feels good to finally bury one.”
The Bears went up 3-0 with 11:46 left in the second period on a goal by a player accustomed to burying pucks.
After a long time in the Minnesota zone, the line of Alec Butcher, Albin Karlsson and Nathan Colwell got a goal, with Butcher picking the puck from two defenders and scoring from the slot.
Butcher leads the league with 47 points.
Beauparlant said he was thinking about pulling the line off the ice because it had been out there for over 50 seconds. He was told Butcher would never come off the ice when in the scoring position.
“Five seconds later, he scores,” Beauparlant said.
The coach said the biggest problem he had with the game was undisciplined penalties gave the Magicians too many power plays.
Minnesota had two power-play goals on six tries, the first tally coming by Cody Milligan in the second period to cut the gap to 3-1.
With 14:31 left in the game, the Magicians were on another power play when Davidson and Jake Bushey were able to break up a play and get the puck out of the zone.
Rookie Rudin was able to get the puck from a Minnesota defender and score on a breakaway.
Rudin did not even know how he beat the goalie.
“The past two weeks, I’ve been missing the net a lot,” he said. “I really just tried to put it on net.”
Eetu Karvinen was able to score for the Magicians 29 seconds later on that power play for a 4-2 game.
With 1:42 left, Rudin iced the game with an empty-net goal from center ice. Minnesota goalie Atte Tolvanen had just left the net.
“I didn’t even realize the goalie was out until after I released the puck,” Rudin said. “I got hit, and then I focused, and I realized the goalie was not there.”
Tolvanen made 31 saves, while Zach Quinn had 35 saves for the Bears.
“He makes the saves he has to make, then two or three big ones a game,” Beauparlant said of his netminder. “That’s the sign of a No. 1 goalie and a future Division I standout.”
Brown Bears 5, Magicians 2
Minnesota 0 1 1 —2
Kenai River 2 1 2 —5
First period — 1. Kenai River, Andrews (Butcher, Fuchs), pp, 0:39; 2. Kenai River, Dierl (Purcell, Bushey), 6:42. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 2 for 4:00.
Second period — 3. Kenai River, Butcher (Karlsson, Colwell), 8:14; 4. Minnesota, Milligan (Johnson), pp, 13:57. Penalties — Minnesota 4 for 14:00; Kenai River 5 for 16:00.
Third period — 5. Kenai River, Rudin (un.), sh, 5:29; 6. Minnesota, Karvinen (N. Kuchera, Funk), pp, 5:58; 7. Kenai River, Rudin (Fuchs), en, 18:18. Penalties — Minnesota 1 for 2:00; Kenai River 3 for 6:00.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 15-8-14—37; Kenai River 15-14-7—36.
Goalies — Minnesota, Tolvanen (35 shots, 31 saves); Kenai River, Quinn (37 shots, 35 saves).
Power plays — Minnesota 2 for 6; Kenai River 1 for 3.